Rep. Ann Wagner is showing signs that constituent pressure might be getting to her. Many of us who’ve been writing and calling her, asking that she meet with us and take a little time to hear our concerns and take our questions, learned via her email newsletter that she held a “tele-townhall,” a tried and true dodge to avoid risking a little in person give-and-take. And she clearly thinks that that’s done the trick. Here she is patting herself on the back in a recent email newsletter:
With so much happening in Washington under President Trump’s new administration and our Republican-led Congress, it is important that I continue to hear what is on your mind at home. I am thrilled that more than 9,000 of you joined us for a tele-townhall conversation Thursday night, where we discussed issues ranging from healthcare to pro-life legislation.
Just to give you a little perspective, over 400,000 folks voted in the last 2nd district election but nobody I’ve heard from seems to be very clear about how the 9,000 folks who “thrilled” Annie by “joining” her on the call were selected for the honor from among that 400,000.
I’ve personally called Wagner’s office several times to ask that she hold a public town-hall – she’s right that there’s lots going on that will affect people in the 2nd district in very serious ways and we want her – hell, we need her – to hear and respond to our concerns. The response? I was told that I could sign up for her newsletter if I wanted to know what was going on chez Rep.Wagner – never mind that, as I told her “tele-staffer,” I’ve been signed up to receive them for a long, long time and Annie’s coy little newsletter driblets don’t really do the trick. Nobody mentioned a tele-townhall to me as a possibility. Which makes sense given that the latest event – which is the only one I’ve personally ever heard about, thanks to some generous Facebook info sharing – seems to have been a surprise for even the participants.
Nor are many of us, including, by all accounts, Wagner’s staff, sure about what it takes to get in on these surprise parties, at least according to some 2nd district residents who’ve been calling and asking how to be included. One person said that she called, left contact information, and asked to participate in the next tele-townhall, and, though the actual telephone event Wagner boasts about above was held later that day, the staffer taking her information said nothing at all about it. Nor was she called. Wonder why?
I have read a report from one person who participated in that call and have heard that another just missed the surprise call inviting her to join the event. But the fact that some folks had the opportunity to listen to Rep. Wagner does not mitigate the problem. If these events are meant to substitute for actual town-halls, why can’t constituents sign up for them? Why wait to be selected? An even more basic question is why aren’t constituents being notified ahead of time that one of these events is imminent so they can do whatever is necessary to participate? Why can’t anyone tell us what it takes to be included?
Wagner has email addresses for all of us who subscribe to her newsletter – which itself indicates interest in what she has to say. It would be easy to let us all know in advance and invite our participation when she’s planning to tele-gift us with her insights into the Trump world she seems to be embracing so wholeheartedly. It would actually be relatively trivial to set up a web-page form we could use to register for the teleconferences. Other folks do such things. I really bet that if Wagner actually cared about communicating with constituents, she could implement some process that would let us decide if we want to participate, rather than leaving us to wait breathlessly to be tapped whenever she feels like getting us – or some of us – on the line.
You don’t think she’s cherry-picking participants , do you?
The news has been full of reports about how “ugly” some Republican town halls have been over the past few weeks, prompting, comparisons to the boisterous town halls that Democrats endured during the nascent Tea Party years. There’s a big difference though, at least for Missourians. I well remember how valiantly, resolutely, and, yes, respectfully, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill handled the worked-up Tea Partiers – and some of them were, to put it mildly, really ugly.
Questions of how to conduct tele-townhalls aside, though, isn’t the real issue still that Rep. Wagner needs to take similar, face-to-face responsibility for what she is doing in Congress if she wants our respect – and our votes? Isn’t answering our questions – especially the ones that have got us hot and bothered – her job? If Wagner’s really a “representative” shouldn’t she do some representing? And if she isn’t going to represent all of us, at least by listening and responding to us, maybe she should retire. Or be retired.